There is a story about a young boy named Tommy who only had one good eye. One morning as he left for school, Tommy’s grandmother gave him a dollar and asked him to go buy a loaf of bread on his way home. Realizing that he had a test that day, Tommy decided to stop by the bakery on the way to school with the hope of wasting as much time as he could and possibly missing the test altogether. Unfortunately, when Tommy walked into the school, bread in hand, he found the room lined with parents that had come to observe the test and a teacher looking very pleased to see him.
“Tommy, you’ve made it just in time for the test! No one else has answered the questions correctly. If you can, then you will receive a dollar and everyone will get to go home for the day. Are you ready?” the teacher asked. Unable to remember what the test was supposed to be over, Tommy froze in place. The teacher held up one finger. Tommy responded by holding up two fingers. The teacher then held up three fingers and Tommy responded by holding up his fist. The teacher then picked up an apple and held it up, and Tommy responded by holding up a loaf of bread.
“Wonderful!” the teacher exclaimed. “Class, because Tommy got every question right, everyone gets to take the rest of the day off! Tommy, here is your dollar…great job!” As the students left, the teacher explained the test to the parents. “I am so impressed,” she said. “I held up one finger to symbolize God, the Father. Tommy held up two fingers to symbolize God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ. I then held up three fingers to symbolize the Holy Trinity. Tommy held up his fist, to show that God the Father, Jesus the Son, and the Holy Spirit are three-in-one. I then held up the apple to represent the Garden of Eden and the fallen state of humanity. Tommy responded by holding up a loaf of bread to show that humanity was redeemed by Jesus, who is the Bread of Life. I am so impressed!”
Meanwhile, Tommy had made it home to his grandmother who saw the bread and the dollar and asked Tommy if he had stolen the loaf of bread, since he still had the dollar from earlier that day. Confused, Tommy said, “No grandma, you’ll never believe what happened today. I bought the loaf of bread before school so that I would miss a test today, but arrived just in time to take it. When it started, the teacher held up one finger to show that I only have one good eye. I was angry with her, so I held up two fingers to say that my one eye was better than her two eyes. Then she held up three fingers to say that between the two of us, we only have three eyes. I was so angry with her for being so rude that I held up my fist to show her what I was gonna do to her if she didn’t quit. She picked up an apple to throw at me, I tried to block it with my bread and she gave me a dollar!”
Isn’t it interesting that we can be on such separate pages, all the while believing that we’re on the same page with someone else? Miscommunication accounts for more interpersonal conflict than we are often willing to give it credit for quite simply because the message that you assume to have sent is not always the message that is received. If you want to have better relationships, don’t assume that others have “read between the lines” in the way that you have expected them to. Take the extra time to make sure that the message that is received is the message that you intended to send. If you do, you will be surprised at how much less drama invades your life.